WE ARE ALL PEOPLE (Service Learning)

My service learning experience was incredible. From working with a group of Refugee youth as a Jr. Jazz basketball Coach to serving with the Habitat for Humanity I have had a wonderful experience getting out of my comfort zone and growing. Honestly the service learning assignment made me a little nervous initially because it was something new and it was going to be with people from other countries who had different backgrounds then me. I didn’t want to be the stereotypical American who was arrogant, I really wanted to connect with the people. I feel like through coaching the Jr. Jazz Basketball team I was given a small chance to do that. It was so much fun to see the boys and realize they are just PEOPLE! We are all apart of the human family and despite our skin color being different, and our upbringing being different they reminded me a lot of myself when I was their age. The bottom line is we are all human and by that I mean that we have far more in common then we do different. We need to look for similarities and build trust and friendship and welcome people who are different with open arms. 

I also had the opportunity to work with the Habitat for Humanity. I had an awesome experience working in their Orem location several times, as well I was able to take part in the service project at the Provo Town Centre Mall helping to get rid of Hazardous waste. It was so much fun to see people from all over Utah come and work together to provide a sustainable future for generations to come. I was also able to have a slight impromptu meeting with the person in charge and brainstorm some ideas I had about the Habitat for Humanity and how they could improve as a non-profit and reach more people and have a larger influence. It was fun seeing that not only was my physical labor welcomed and appreciated but I was able to be a useful resource in helping come up with new ideas to push the organization forward. 

Overall it will be an experience I’ll never forget. 

We are all just PEOPLE!

 

Mic Drop Moments

I have learned SO MUCH this semester it’s hard to put it into a single post, but I’ll do my best. I think the absolute most valuable lesson that I learned this semester is that we are all cultural rookies. It’s one of the reasons I have themed my blog as “One White Guys opinion on life, #culturalrookie”. It doesn’t matter who you are or where you are from everyone is an individual and no one should assume they know who you are because of the color of your skin, or the country you are from. I don’t think it’s easy to do, but I think if you don’t do it you do humanity and yourself a disservice. By compartmentalizing people into groups and associating them by race and skin color you limit the individuality of every person on earth. No one fits the stereotype perfectly and labeling people limits are ability to connect and break cultural and racial barriers. Assumptions and judgements are the death of openness and cultural acceptance. 

So moving forward in my life, I am going to try and drop my walls and empathize with people with no preconceived notions. I had the chance to work directly with the refugees up in Salt Lake and it was so much fun. To see the life and vibrance these kids have it makes you want to do everything you can to help them. For some reason going and directly working with people who are different then you in some ways makes you see all the ways you are similar. The personalities of these young refugee boys I got to coach were larger than life. I could tell initially they were a little hesitant when I came to coach, but slowly I won them over and by the end they were having fun with me. 

If I am being completely honest there were somethings we talked about this semester that I am still thinking about and processing. I was uncomfortable at moments and I wasn’t sure how to respond but I think each time was a growing experience and changed my perspective. I don’t think real change happens overnight for anyone, but this class has given me new perspective and taken me one step closer to becoming the person I need to be. The world needs people who are willing to get outside of their comfort zones.

Learn to love change. 

Mic Drop. 

The MEDIA Machine

Popular media in my opinion doesn’t just affect our culture, it  silently shapes a lot of it . The media has turned into this huge machine that is constantly communicating with all of us for hours and hours a day. Snapchat, Facebook, Twitter, Espn, Instagram, your smartphone and all of its apps, your TV, the radio, the news updates on your phone, magazines, flyers, and newspapers. If you could ad up the total time each day the media is influencing us and shaping our perspective on reality it would be mind-boggling. Honestly the way the media portrays people will influence how you feel about those individuals. Whether we like it or not, what we watch and listen to, and read has major effects on us and can change our perceptions of reality. Our culture and how we view ourselves, and others is constantly being augmented by what the media around us is telling us. I think the education process we undergo through the media is so seamless we think these thoughts are just coming from our own experiences, but so much of how you feel about people is because of the media. An example would be, even if you have never spoken with a Chinese man or been to China, you still have some sort of perception of people from China and it’s through the media that this happens. In this way the media gets to shape our culture and others cultures in our minds. We group certain people and associate certain people with others based on who they media says they are. I think due to constant contact we have with the media it’s hard to tell what ideas we formulated and what ideas were given to us, either way the media is changing how we perceive our own culture and the cultures around us. 

We had the opportunity to hear from Scott, I cannot remember what his title was or his position but he was incredible! Scott had been a part of a reality TV show showed on Discovery channel with a plot surrounding a mining operation in Ghana. What an amazing presentation! From listening to his experiences with the natives and their view of Americans it made me pretty nervous to visit Africa. Scott offered quite a bit of information about working with others outside of your own culture and how to approach people who are not like you. His first hand experience with the people form Ghana was pretty crazy and learning to navigate the local hierarchy proved to be pretty difficult. Considering that Scotts story ended with him having a warrant out for his arrest from the Government in Ghana and he and a friend getting flown out of the country under the radar on a private jet, he is pretty positive about the people in Africa and their way of life. My biggest takeaway from his presentation was that we cannot assume our way of operating or thinking is how others do. Scott said that most of the headache he encountered was because of pride, and a lack of willingness to adapt to the local customs and ways. Scott and his colleagues wanted to do things the American way, but the issue is that Africa is a few hundred years behind America in many ways. So assuming that business would be done the same way is naive. Overall listening to Scott was one of the highlights of the semester for me. What cool first hand experience and what great insights into a people that I previously knew very little about. 

Monopoly Board Mania All 5 Activities Summed Up.

Participating in the monopoly board events has been very rewarding, I’ve already posted about a few of the events I was able to attend. I watched a movie called Outsourced which I wrote about, I also attended a MLK speech by Elijah Miles which I wrote about.

The final activities I was a part of was eating Ethnic food at a new Asian food place in Orem called Zao. My wife and Daughter who came with me thought the food was very good. My wife is slightly more adventurous when it comes to eating ethnic food then I am. However, despite my nervousness it was actually really good. I enjoyed the meal and my wife and I have another place we can go that’s here locally and enjoy cuisine that’s not from America. 

The final thing I did for the monopoly board was read a book called, “Islam, The religion and the people”. Honestly I could write an entire book report on this because it was full of so much information. From the pillars of the faith, to how the Islam faith works in the Muslim world, I was amazed how many similarities there are between Islam and what Christianity used to be. Of course since Christianity has changed, so has Islam over the years. And much like their are radical Christians there are also radical followers of Islam, those are typically what the news shows. The stereotype that we see is that Muslims are terrorists and that Islam is a religion of hate. Nothing could be further from the truth. Islam is a peaceful religion today even though the different tribes follow different rules. Within Islam oftentimes the people who are the radicals are those that get the press and they are those that we associate all Muslim people with. One thing that stuck out to me from the book was the way their view of Women has changed over the years. This same concept can be applied to how all of women’s rights have changed over the years this is not unique to Islam. But the view of women has changed and women are now offered many more opportunities then they used to be. Although it’s not quite where we are here in the west, significant improvements in women’s rights have been made and I thought it was one of the positive influences western culture has had on followers of Islam. 

Anyways much like Christianity there are lots of breakoffs and groups who all claim to be members of the Islamic faith but they all believe different things and they follow different traditions. Polygamy being an example of something that some groups practice and others do not. You can find the same thing in Christianity today, so all of the comparisons were pretty interesting for me to read about. 

Overall I think the book provided me with a solid foundation of information about Islam and about Muslims in general. I feel more educated and ultimately I feel like I can better connect with and understand people form the middle east and other parts of the world that follow Islam. 

The Inter-racial Life “Co-Cultural Groups”

I had the chance to speak with a good friend of mine who is a part of an interracial relationship. His wife Iliana Oaxcua is from Chihuahua  Mexico and they met while he was doing summer sales in California. My friend Bennett is Caucasian and he’s originally from Orem Utah. Iliana is a perfect example of someone who is a part of many co-cultural groups. Not only is she Hispanic which puts her in the non-dominant race for our area, she also speaks very little english, cannot drive a car and she’s of course a women. I think that each of these things gives Iliana a certain unique perspective pertaining to life in Utah Valley. As I spoke with Bennett and Iliana they spoke about the tension that each of these things has created for their marriage, their families, and lots of Iliana’s day-to-day activities. Ultimately Iliana’s experience has been positive in America even though she doesn’t speak much English.  Although there are many Hispanics in Utah County, and there are many women, Iliana’s circumstances are unique because of the combination. She belongs to many co-cultural groups each of which has it’s own set of challenges and presents it’s own hurdles to jump. Most of my talk with Bennett and Iliana had to be translated so Iliana could even understand my questions, luckily Bennett knows Spanish.  I realized quickly how hard it would be for someone who didn’t have a working understanding of English to succeed here in the states. It also made me realize that there are so many marginalized individuals and groups I hadn’t previously thought about. After considering each of the many co-cultural groups that Iliana is a part of it helped me see, and understand how lots of people’s perspectives and voices really go unheard. This chapter has been good for me and has helped me see lots of different perspectives on the world around me. The Standpoint theory was one of the things that stood out to me and I briefly mentioned the concepts it illustrates a little earlier in the post. The Standpoint Theory helps bring to light the value that marginalized people can have in helping society analyze it’s processes and hierarchy in a more objective way. By listening to those who aren’t members of the dominant culture, meaning the dominant, race, sex, ethnicity, sexual orientation, and even social class, you get a fresh perspective. 

TEDx Talk

White Privilege

            The intercultural topic that I chose to do my research paper on is White Privilege. I chose White Privilege because it’s a topic that means so much to me and has had such a huge effect on my life. It’s also a topic that I am completely uncomfortable with and as we spoke about it in class I felt that this is an area I needed to be better educated in. I learned quickly that privilege is all around us and it’s very difficult for those with privilege to see it. In this paper I will discuss a Tedx talk I found on the topic of White Privilege along with two peer reviewed articles that offer further insight into the controversy and how to begin fixing it. I will conclude the paper by giving my own opinion about how we can correct systematic White Privilege.

            Gracee Wallach, a white, upper-middle class, Jewish, heterosexual, female who is a student at New Trier High School gave a wonderful Tedx talk on White Privilege. Her Tedx talk was focused on why America should not be striving for racial equality, but why we should be striving to achieve racial equity. Gracee highlighted the difference between the two concepts of equality and equity by displaying a small picture of three people of different heights trying to look over a fence. She explained that equality is giving each of them the same size box to stand on. Although the people are different heights to begin with, equality demands that you treat them all the same. The tallest person could easily see over the fence without the box, the middle person could now see over the fence and the shortest still couldn’t see over the fence. She went on to speak about how the education system and much of society has systematic barriers in place that if we treat everyone the same we will potentially reach racial equality, but we will never achieve the real goal which is racial equity. She displayed another picture of the same people standing behind the same fence. This time the shortest was given the tallest box, and could now see over the fence, the middle was given a smaller box and could see over the fence, and the tallest was given no box at all and could see over the fence. Racial equity as Gracee described it is not about treating everyone the same, but about making things as fair as possible. With the understanding that each of us has a different figurative, “height” we begin life with. Racial equity seeks to help those who weren’t born into a position of privilege catch up. Gracee went on to elaborate on the disparities that exist between white people and black people, along with the inherent disadvantages that accompany those who are not the dominant race. At the conclusion of her Tedx talk she suggested that the solution behind the problem was getting people to become color brave, not color blind. Gracee advocated that if white people who are privileged will stand up and speak out against these inequities real change can happen. She also spoke about how opening up honest dialogue about the topic as a white person can help other people see that White Privilege is real and the systematic barriers in place are holding back minorities.

            Although I felt that Gracee was on the right track, I do not think that racial equity should be America’s goal at the moment. After listening to her speech and thinking about the example with the fence, I think the real issue isn’t getting people to see over the fence as much as it, finding out why the fence exists in the first place. Dismantling the fence through education would be my approach and I feel like the peer reviewed articles I’ve found help show that

            The first peer reviewed article I found was entitled, “Learning to lead for racial equity” by Gislaine Ngounou and Nancy Gutierrez. This article addresses the need for continued education for real change to occur on the topics of race and privilege. The article states, “Given how complex and how deeply felt Americans’ beliefs about race and equity are, these topics cannot be addressed effectively through the onetime workshops that too often pass for professional development in K-12 education” (Gutierrez, Ngounou, 2017, p. 37). It’s clear from the past that doing one-time trainings on racial inequity in schools can raise awareness but ultimately isn’t going to change the entire system overnight. Real change takes a more long-term investment of time and effort. The system must be approached from many levels and change must be a focus on at all levels. The article illustrates that once everyone is on the same page, “people are better able to see that inequities result from conflicting interests and beliefs system, and to look for effective ways to share and allocate resources, resolve conflicts and dismantle unjust structures” (Gutierrez, Ngounou, 2017, p. 40). In order to dismantle unjust structures as it’s put in the article, you have to have a new approach to education. The article explains, “An equitable system does not treat all students in a standardized way but differentiates instruction, services, and resources to respond effectively to the diverse needs of students so that each student can develop his or her full academic and societal potential” (as cited in, Gutierrez, Ngounou, 2017, p.40). For equity to ever be reached we need to provide educators with the correct long-term training and resources to understand how to adapt their approaches to teaching individuals from both the majority population and the minority populations. By adapting the education system to focus on individuals instead of standardized tests we’ll be one step closer to breaking down the systematic barriers in the education system.

            The second peer reviewed article I found was entitled, “White Privilege” by Kazi I. Hossain. This article illustrates the movement that is happening in the United States as more and more minorities are born in America. The article states, “It is estimated that, by 2050, ethnic minority children will make up the majority of most U.S. public school classrooms, and in some cities this change has already taken place” (as cited in, Hossain, 2015, p. 52). With minority populations on the rise it is vital that real change in the education system take place now. A large part of this will be a change of perception for the dominant race. Caucasians will need to adjust their world views and allow for changes in the education system for minority races to succeed. The article goes on to talk about the experience of a white teacher as she taught about White Privilege to a group of Caucasian students. She explains, “The biggest source of resistance for my students came from what Tatum (1992) called “The Myth of the Meritocracy” (Hossain, 2015, p. 53). As a white male who grew up in Orem Utah I can say that the concept of meritocracy is still taught in middle-class America today. The article describes meritocracy as, “achievements by members of the privileged group which are viewed as meritorious and the result of individual effort, rather than as privileged” (as cited in, Hossain, 2015, p. 53). Simply put you reap what you sow. The article makes it clear that because Caucasian students were taught this concept in their homes it was deeply engrained within them and it made accepting the truth about White Privilege more difficult. The article goes on to conclude that open dialogue and a shift in what is being taught in the homes of Caucasian Americans needs to change. Children need to be taught about meritocracy and White Privilege and understand that not everyone has the same access to resources and opportunities in life.

            In conclusion, the real way to eliminate the systematic barriers that exist in society and in the education system today is to start from the ground up. The first step in my proposed solution is to begin while children are young. Learning not only about the misleading parts of meritocracy but about the true parts as well. Teach children in the school systems about the privileges they were afforded and how they can use those for good, without discounting hard work and personal achievement. If you help children understand all of the variables that go into success in life there will be less resistance to change and more of an openness surrounding the topic of White Privilege. Success in life really is a combination of hard work (meritocracy), and opportunity (privilege). The second step is creating an open dialogue about race. If race is talked about and children learn that it’s not a taboo topic it will lead to a generation that understands the need for change, and is comfortable enough with the topic to ensure the change actually happens. As society shifts it’s focus from subsidies and aid to systematic barriers it will be a long, painful process reinventing how our society operates, but it will mean lasting change. The third step in the solution will be preparing educators for discomfort and providing long-term training to give teachers the tools they need to provide a multicultural education. Educators at all levels of our school systems need to understand that this shift and focus to a multicultural education means more attention to individual students and less one size fits all teaching methods. It will take hard work and dedication to open up real dialogue and there will be many moments of discomfort and resistance. If done correctly I feel three things will happen. The first is that students will grow up with a better world view of the truth about their personal successes and they’ll understand the importance of opportunity. Second, as students grow we’ll elect leaders who will implement change in our education system so that it doesn’t favor one race over another but ultimately focuses more on the individual then on test scores. The third is that minorities will begin to succeed and feel more accepted and more privileged in our society. Equity will be reached for America but it won’t be because we gave some help and not others, it will be reached because we dismantled the systematic barrier holding people back from opportunity, and we did it through education.

 

 

 

Bibliography

Hossain, K. I. (2015). White Privilege. Multicultural Education, 23(1), 52-55.

Ngounou, G., & Gutierrez, N. (n.d). Learning to lead for racial equity. Phi Delta Kappan, 99(3), 37-41.

  1. (2015, May 04). White privilege | Gracee Wallach | TEDxNewTrierHS. Retrieved March 20, 2018, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kdik3nO8Cfs

 

 

Sympathy<Empathy<Advocacy

Now that we’ve spent a few weeks talking about privilege I feel like my viewpoint and my understanding is much more well rounded. I used to be under the impression that privilege related mostly to money, and social status. Although those are both important parts of privilege the truth is privilege is much more fundamental then that. So many basic parts of life provide privilege it’s hard to really keep them all straight. From gender, to race, to education, to having both parents in the home growing up, to having to legs that work and eyes that can see. Privilege is an interesting topic because some people feel like they are very privileged and others feel they are not when in reality most people have a fair amount of privilege. Learning about the breadth of privilege has humbled me, because I was one of the people who already felt I had been given lots of privilege and now I realize how much more I really have had all along. It’s also interesting to note that privilege for the most part isn’t earned. Although you can go get more education and maybe even earn more money, some people are privileged to have parents that taught them to get an education and showed them how to get a job and earn money. 

I think the largest thing that stood out to me from the empathy/advocacy presentation was how much better I need to be at both. A comment was made in class about the difference and it stuck with me. The idea was that, you have sympathy for someone, you empathize with someone, and advocate in behalf of someone. Meaning that sympathy is recognizing that someone is having a bad day or is in a tough circumstance. You are sorry that it has happened to them. Empathy in my mind is taking your sympathy to the next level. You stop feeling sorry for them, and you start feeling sorry with them, you literally put yourself in the that persons shoes and in some way try and bear the same weight they are bearing. I think that advocacy comes naturally if you are good at empathizing. It doesn’t take very long walking in someone else’s shoes to realize that you should be helping them. Advocating for someone in their situation and circumstance is actively going out and using whatever status, privilege, or persuasion you have to cause change in a positive way. 

Am I really surrounded by water? #privilege

I have had mixed feelings as we have learned about privilege last week and now this week more specifically White Privilege. Most of my mixed feelings have been about how I can be better at counteracting organizational White Privilege and become someone who fights against the grain.  I am sure the emotions this topic has stirred up within me are an indicator that this information is good for me and is getting me outside my comfort zone. I have gained a little bit better understanding of what White Privilege really means. From the presentation we had on Monday I learned that White Privilege is a broader term relating to race/ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, age, ability and even education. When you are the member of the majority in almost any context, or a member of the privileged in society you are a part of what has been termed White Privilege. An example was given Monday about two fish, one turns to the other and asks how the water is today? The second fish responds by asking, what is water? I liked this example and it pinpoints one of the reasons why human resources providing diversity training is so important in an organization. Often times we don’t even realize that privilege is all around us and in an organization that can be counterproductive for creative problem solving and unity. When individuals who are a part of the majority, or who have privilege don’t realize it they can often hold back members with disabilities or disadvantages from participating and contributing at the highest level possible. It’s important to realize that the organization or the system you are used to thriving in may be giving you an advantage and you may not even be aware of it. Realizing this and receiving training about diversity and how to work better with those who are different than you can help empower all members of the organization and increase productivity. My new understanding of White Privilege will help me be more conscientious as I more forward as a member of teams, organizations and my community

The Starting Line of Life

Privilege has taken on a new meaning to me because of the in-class activity we did with the beads. I really hadn’t thought of something like ability privilege or gender privilege to the same extent it was talked about on the different sheets. Ultimately I have come to the conclusion that life is like a race, and privilege is where you start on the track. The issue is that you don’t get to choose where you start on the track so based on your privilege you have an unfair natural advantage but it isn’t your fault you have it or don’t have it. Because of this lack of control it’s tough to explain to someone who has lots of privilege what it’s like to not have it, and vice versa it’s difficult for someone who doesn’t have it to not hate someone who does. Neither party can completely understand how it feels to run from the others perspective. But I do think that classes such as this, and activities such as the one we did can help people stop and look at their beads and say wow, I am privileged and how can I help and support those who may not have the same beads or as many beads as I do. I think stopping and taking a second to think about that can give new meaning and a new openness to your heart. 

I will be the first to say I have incredible privilege in my life and it’s had an effect on everything that’s ever happened to me. From the school I went to, to the people I associated with, to the way I currently use the english language have all been altered or augmented because of my privilege. Privilege is such an integral part of everything you do, and who you are that it’s nearly impossible to list all the associations and connections. You don’t even realize it but everything ties back to the starting line, and privilege decides the starting line for the race of life. 

Cultural Self-Assessment

Introduction

            My name is Zachary Oldham and this is my cultural self-assessment. In this post I will begin by talking about my own cultural identity. I will do this by giving a brief overview of my age, race, socioeconomic class, gender, and how I was raised from childhood through adolescents and into adulthood. I will also speak about my family and religion. After I have assessed my own cultural identity, I will discuss my personal ideas about two cultural groups different then my own. I have chosen to talk about my experiences and what I have learned about females and those of the upper socioeconomic class. I will answer many questions relative to these two cultural groups each of which will be based off of my own experiences. After answering a few questions about these two cultural identifications I will talk about where my information and ideas comes from. I will address who my sources are and who has taught me what I believe about these two groups. Following that section, I will conclude my thoughts by posing three questions/ideas that I would like deeper insight on before the end of the semester.

My Cultural Identity

            I am a 25-year-old middle-class, Caucasian, male. I was born and raised in Orem Utah and I have lived in a predominately affluent, Caucasian community my entire life. Because most of my childhood, adolescents and young adult life has been spent in Utah Valley I have had a limited exposure to real poverty, or people of other races. One distinguishing part of my cultural identity is that I was raised by two parents a father who worked and a mother that stayed at home as a homemaker. My family life growing up was very pleasant and I enjoyed lots of great times with my siblings. I am the second to youngest of five children, I have one older sister and three brothers. My father is a business owner so I was taught from a young age to work for what I wanted, and ultimately I could decide my own destiny with the sky being the limit. I was raised as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and I am currently a practicing member of the faith. I attended Church each week growing up and was taught that a faith in God and a strong moral foundation was essential to happiness in this life. I was also taught that I had the responsibility to share that belief and our faith with others. Due to this belief, I served a two-year mission for my church in Spokane, Washington. This experience did give me more exposure to life outside of Utah Valley and provided me growth as I entered new cultures and was exposed to conflicting ideas from my own. I have spoken English my entire life and I was called as an English speaking missionary so I have had little exposure through language to other cultures.

Gender-Women

I have learned so much about women in the last few years I could write a book. From getting married to having a daughter my understanding of women has changed and developed immensely. With that being the case I’d like to answer some questions that will help you understand how I feel about the female gender.

Are women as intelligent as men? I have learned from many experiences that women are absolutely as intelligent as men. Although my understanding of this intelligence has changed I don’t feel there was ever a time in my life I felt that women were not every bit equal to men in terms of intelligence. The Merriam-Webster dictionary online defines intelligence as the skilled use of reason. I think in this sense I have always felt that men and women were equal. I do feel like I have been impacted by what our culture has traditionally defined as gender roles. As I grew up I would have naturally told you that men or males as a whole group were more intelligent in certain fields or areas because men were predominantly the ones in those fields. As a child it was clear to me that men were meant to lead out in certain areas of business, medicine, the trades, sports, and other areas of our culture that are dominated by men. I don’t think I felt women were less intelligent meaning that they couldn’t succeed in these fields but that they hadn’t really been given the opportunity. I will say if you had put a picture of man and a woman on a screen and asked me which was the owner of the company and which was the secretary I would definitely put the man as the owner of the business and the women as the secretary. I think that this example illustrates a very deep idea that is ingrained within most people on the earth. I wouldn’t say that men are more intelligent, but that men get the opportunity traditionally to show their intelligence in a greater capacity then women have historically. If my first reaction is the man is the owner and the women is the secretary it would appear that I feel the man is more intelligent, but I don’t think that’s the case. I think I see males as being in leadership because that’s what history tells me.

Do women have similar values as men? I definitely feel that women have similar values as men do. I do feel that men and women put greater emphasis on certain values. I think that women as a whole appear more honest and put a greater emphasis on mercy than men do. I feel like women typically value education more than men do. I think that women are also generally more innocent then men and appear more kind and approachable.

            Do women usually behave in a certain way? I feel that the majority of women put great value in outward appearance so they are always spending money on clothes and makeup trying make themselves feel cute. Women feel immense social pressure to look perfect and be perfect. There is great pressure for women to be skinny and sexy and symmetrical so beauty products and self improvement products are a constant worry. Women also typically just want to talk about problems instead of fix them. I’ve found that women need to be listened to and validated when they have issues. Women usually already know what they need to do to fix the problem and even if they don’t they just want you to listen.

            How do women fit into my worldview? My mother was someone who cleaned the house and cooked the food. Her primary duty was a caregiver and she was a stay at home mother who helped me with homework and made sure my brothers and I were not fighting. Growing up with this as my worldview I honestly have been very surprised to go into the world and find out that the traditional view of women is changing. It has begun shifting that women are encouraged more and more to go into the work force and help provide for the family. I would even say that it’s almost taken a complete turn and women who stay at home now feel that they are looked down upon in certain contexts because they are just stay-at-home mothers.

            Have I come into contact enough with women to see what I’ve been taught put into practice? I feel that I’ve been surrounded by women my whole life so I’ve definitely had plenty of exposure to watch and see how my father treated women. I was always taught that women were equal to men and a great example that shows this in action is how my father counseled with my mother about large family decisions. Out of respect for my mom and her opinions my dad adjusted his career multiple times and even left working with his family at one point based on my mother’s feelings and input. Even though my father is a business owner and very successful he treats my mother equal because she is his equal. I’ve also watched how he treats female employees and clients and he treats them as equals in every context, teaching me through example how he feels about women.       

Socioeconomic Class- Upper Class

The second cultural group I’ve chosen to speak about is the upper class. The upper class is a socioeconomic group which includes members of society that are affluent or very rich. I would like to self reflect on my experiences with these people and answer a few questions.

Is the upper class as intelligent as the middle class? I feel that the upper class people that I’ve come into contact with are definitely as intelligent as the middle class people I know, including myself. I will say that in some ways members of the upper class feel that they are more intelligent than those who have less money or less material wealth. But in my experience I wouldn’t say they are more intelligent, just equal.

            Does the upper class have similar values to the middle class? Externally I want to say yes. From my life experience people with lots of money still have similar values to those who don’t but I’ve seen some exceptions to that also. People with money often aren’t able to keep in perspective the correct balance between family and money and time. It’s difficult to not let yourself get consumed by material wealth and so it often ends up becoming a top priority and family doesn’t matter as much.  

            Do upper class people typically behave in a certain way? I would say that members of the upper class typically speak down to those beneath them. Even if they do not do it purposefully its difficult to speak with someone respectfully when internally you feel you are above them. Society has a scale and it’s inherent in the name of this cultural group, “upper class”. Upper meaning above the middle and lower class. You are at the top of society, “upper” being symbolic of something better or more worthy. So yes I feel that people who are wealthy typically treats others poorly until they find out how much they are worth financially. Members of the upper class rank order people in terms of money and power, and treat you according to your rank.

            How does the upper class fit into my worldview? My father was raised in a condemned shack on a small farm in Santaquin, Utah. His view of rich people was rather bad because he was treated very poorly by people who had accumulated lots of wealth. That being said I’ve grown up with the understanding that there are some people who are very wealthy who are kind and treat everyone great. I understand now from experience that typically the person who worked for the wealth is often times more kind than the person who inherited it. Most of my experiences with wealthy upper class people fit the typical arrogant, all about money attitudes you see portrayed on television. But occasionally you meet someone and they are genuine, good, down-to-earth people.

            Have I come into contact enough with members of the upper class enough to put what I’ve learned into practice? I have absolutely been exposed my entire life to members of the upper class. Although I grew up in a middle class neighborhood I also knew personally certain people with millions of dollars and I was able to observe how they treated people, what they valued, and how they saw the world. One concrete example I have was when my rich uncle introduced me to his friend. My uncle was introducing me to a friend of his at the Cracker Barrel in Springville Utah, now take into consideration before I tell you the punchline that I had been home from my mission for 4-1/2 years when this story took place. I was introduced as, “this is Marks son, he was an AP (Assistant to the President) on his mission in Spokane, Washington.” To this day I realized that just introducing me wasn’t enough, my uncle needed to validate how awesome I was by telling his friend something impressive about me. Being an AP or Assistant to the President is a calling as a missionary. My uncle who is wealthy was trying to impress the man he was introducing me to because my uncle is someone who really cares about titles and status. Members of the upper class put great weight on titles and on accomplishment.

Sources of Cultural Knowledge

            I consider my primary sources for cultural knowledge to be my family and even more specifically my parents. I can tie so many of my current view points and current understandings of culture and people back to my roots which were almost always planted by my family while I was young. I also realize as I get older that my parents laid a cultural foundation for me to build upon, by teaching me principles and values to live by. Although my parents laid the foundation, my continuing source of cultural knowledge is my neighbors, friends and the media. I am still incredibly close with my siblings, parents, and other relatives but they don’t play as big of a role in helping me see and develop new cultural knowledge the way they did when I was young. I have begun to see how big a role the media, including facebook, Instagram, google, twitter, movies, Hollywood, Netflix, politics, and the smart phone are having on me. The constant stream of information and new ideas and new perspectives on current cultural topics such as gender and socioeconomic class is exhausting. The values I was taught and the foundations of how I view culture are constantly getting rocked.

The Media-on Women

            As a member of a generation that came through their mid to upper teenage years with facebook and other social media I feel the effects that this technology has had on me and how I view our culture here in America. I’d like to apply the effect that this media has had on me concerning my view of women. I’ve personally seen the shift for women to be out of the home and into the workplace pushed in politics, the news, on facebook, and through movies. You watch on television and the movies as women are almost never in the home, they are in business or politics or some professional realm succeeding at a high level. The media is committed to putting women in the workplace in an effort to make the idea a reality and adjust the traditional cultural norm.

My Parents/Family-on Women

The traditional idea that a woman is firstly a homemaker has been deemed a sexist idea that puts woman beneath men. This rhetoric is pushed by the media on a daily basis. As the media has tried its hardest to influence me, I find myself still holding on to what I was taught as a child. When I was young I feel like it was more culturally acceptable for women to stay in the home and be homemakers. I even think it was still encouraged by lots of people and seen as a position of respect. Being a mother and raising the next generation was seen as a great responsibility. Politics hadn’t gotten to where it is today, and frankly the media didn’t play near as big of a role in shaping peoples opinions because there wasn’t near the access to it. We still had television and radio but there were no cell phones, no social media so the news we got was often more local. I think that there are large factors in why I feel how I do today. My parents and family were my primary sources of cultural knowledge and what I was taught then sunk deeply into my soul. My mother had the chance to be a stay-at-home mom and although I know that doesn’t work for everyone I really feel like I benefitted greatly from it.

Between the media’s influence on me and what I was taught as a child I personally am at the point where I feel with my whole heart that women are every bit as smart and intelligent as men are. I feel that the media has helped me vocalize how amazing I think women are, and I love and appreciate the pro-women movements I see on facebook and the media so long as they talk about how great women are, not how terrible men are. Celebrating women and believing in women needs to be a greater focus in the world and the influence of the media and my education has opened me up to that reality.

The Media-on the Upper Class.

The media has taught me that wealth is something to be sought after at all costs. Even if it means taking from someone else unethically. I used to think that getting ahead meant ahead of the bills and the necessities of life, but now days It’s so easy to show everyone how rich you are on social media that I feel like I am constantly forced to compare my financial accomplishments to those of my peers. Getting ahead means, showing others you are more wealthy and powerful then they are. So many people are searching for that next get-rich-quick scheme and honestly there are times when it seems enticing. I find that the media’s view of the rich has influenced me and made me trust members of the elite upper class less and less. From politicians to big business it’s hard to trust people making that much money or who have that much power. I have found that this media frenzy has rubbed off on me and partly shaped the distrust I have for people in power and authority positions.  

My Parents/Family- on the Upper Class

My original teachers on the subject of wealth and social class were my parents. Neither of my parents come from any money and they learned from a young age that you had to work if you wanted to get anywhere in life. My father’s family would have been considered lower class and my mother’s family probably the lower end of the middle class which definitely influenced how I view the upper class today. My parents taught me that money allows you to be who you always wanted to be. If you always wanted to help others and be charitable you could do that with money. If you always wanted to be powerful and rich and consider yourself better than others, money could help you do that also. My understanding of the rich was that some were bad, but lots were good. My parents had a fairly positive approach to members of the upper class and although I ran into some rich people who were very arrogant and put others down, I also had many examples growing up of people who were wealthy and incredibly generous and pleasant to be around. So honestly my teachers consisted of the wealthy people I knew, my parents, and members of my family who obtained lots of money.

Conclusion

            In conclusion, I’d like to confess that doing this self-reflection based on my own understanding of gender and socioeconomic class has really made me realize what I think and where that information comes from. Sometimes we have an idea or an opinion but we forget where that idea originated and who helped us develop it. I hadn’t previously realized how large of a role my parents had in teaching me concepts that have shaped the way I interpret the messages that are pushed on me by the media. The media’s power to indoctrinate is great but I see that so much of the world and it’s culture I am viewing through the lens my parents gave me.

            Gender is a topic of much interest to me because it’s a part of so much of what we do. Its influence is seamlessly woven into all parts of our culture and doing this reflection helped see that. I feel the same when it comes to socioeconomic class in that it’s quietly around us and plays a huge role in our communication.

Diving into these topics has also given me an appreciation for how much more I have to learn and consider. The following three questions/ideas are things I would be interested learning about before the semester ends.

  1. I’d like to learn more about traditional verse progressive gender roles in the American culture and potentially what role communication plays in those.
  2. How does socioeconomic class change between races and cultures and how does that affect communication?
  3. Why is gender such an integral part of our language and how can we fight sexist stereotypes through changing our language?